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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Drake to end winter commencement ceremony, parents upset

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The winter commencement ceremony at Drake University is a relatively new tradition, having only begun about 10 years ago. Photo by Meghan Holloran | Photo Editor

Starting fall 2025, Drake will no longer hold a separate commencement ceremony for December graduates. This change was announced Feb. 13 by Chief Student Affairs Jerry Parker in an email to all Drake students. The fall 2024 ceremony will be the University’s last December commencement. 

Registrar Jenny Tran-Johnson cited a variety of reasons for the change, including feedback collected after every commencement ceremony. Other factors include the rising cost associated with commencement ceremonies, lower student enrollment, impact to students and families and the human resources necessary to hold ceremonies. 

“We are always mindful of our fiscal responsibility,” Tran-Johnson said. “The cost of delivering our commencement ceremonies continues to rise, as inflation has impacted the costs associated with the ceremony. While this will provide some cost savings, more importantly, we want to continue to ensure a high-quality experience for our graduates.”

Moving forward, December graduates will have the opportunity to participate in the May commencement ceremonies. Drake will continue to host four May commencement ceremonies: a law school ceremony, a College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences doctoral hooding and commencement ceremony, a graduate ceremony and an undergraduate ceremony. 

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“We are fortunate to hold our ceremonies in the Knapp Center, which has ample capacity to accommodate this transition,” Tran-Johnson said. “Our December ceremonies typically see around 200 participants that represent both graduate and undergraduate students. Those 200 participants will be dispersed among our four May ceremonies.”

Although this is a new change for current graduates, Drake has only had a December graduation ceremony for about ten years, Tran-Johnson said. The University has extensive experience that she believes will be beneficial to supporting the upcoming transitions. 

“We wanted to provide students and their families with time to plan for this transition,” Tran-Johnson said. “Announcing December 2024 as our last ceremony provides over one year for our December 2025 graduates to discuss alternate plans with their families.”

Drake parent Caroline — who has been asked to only be identified by her first name — has a daughter graduating in fall 2024. She expressed frustration with the changes to the ceremony on Drake’s Parent Facebook page and found that other parents shared her opinion. 

“[The ceremony is] a time to recognize and acknowledge their years of work to achieve this degree,” Caroline said in an email to The Times-Delphic. “I was angry that with the cost of tuition that we pay and that we are frequently asked to donate to the University for their fundraising that they wouldn’t have a ceremony that we could participate in without waiting six months.”

For Caroline and her family, returning to Drake for a spring commencement ceremony is unrealistic logistically. She is disappointed for future fall graduates who will not have a separate ceremony and would have preferred that Drake transition to a smaller ceremony in December rather than canceling it entirely. 

“Quite honestly, I think the University could do a smaller ceremony in the winter to help it be cost-effective, use a smaller venue, and skip paying for keynote speakers,” Caroline said. “We’ve been to small graduation ceremonies that were really nice. I simply want a chance to see my student’s name called, walk across the stage in their cap and gown, receive their diploma and be able to celebrate their hard work right away.”

Ultimately, Parker’s email cited the combined graduation as an opportunity to bring all students in the same graduating class together, regardless of whether they graduate in the fall, spring, or summer. 

“We look forward to bringing together all students from the same graduating class to celebrate their accomplishments during our May commencement ceremonies,” Tran-Johnson said. 

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